Why is NEXUS 'just' a novella?

Good question! I’ll try and explain…

Firstly, what’s a novella?
Essentially a short novel, but with a difference. Currently immensely popular as an ebook, ”…it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book. Thus it provides an intense, detailed exploration of its subject, providing to some degree both the concentrated focus of the short story and the broad scope of the novel.” (Robert Silverberg)

There you have the long and the short of it. 😉

More seriously, today a novella is often written in between novels, as an accompaniment or complement to other books in a series. Sometimes, an author may be trying out a new genre, character or storyline; other times, they may tell the story of a secondary character. These are quick reads, but no less enjoyable and are typically 20,000 to 45,000 words.

War of the Worlds by H G Wells and Animal Farm by George Orwell are famous examples. My own first experiment was CARINA (35,000 words), which tells of an incident referred to in later books and a mission that sits between the full-length INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS.

So where does NEXUS fit in?
We’re still in Roma Nova, the remnant of the Roman Empire that’s toughed it out into the modern age. It’s an alternative 20th century with many aspects exactly the same as in our own timeline, but some are distinctly different; Praetorian Guards exist for one. They guard the imperatrix of Roma Nova and act as an intelligence and special forces service.

We meet Aurelia Mitela at ages 28 to 30 in AURELIA when she’s firmly established with ten years as an officer in the Praetorian Guard under her belt. She has a mother who’s a senior councillor to Imperatrix Justina and head of the Mitela family. And Aurelia’s young daughter, Marina, is the emotional centre of her life. Of course, that doesn’t stay stable past the first chapter…

When we next encounter Aurelia in INSURRECTIO, she’s in her mid-forties, and has climbed to become a senator, the deputy foreign minister of Roma Nova and chief councillor to Justina’s daughter, the ineffective Imperatrix Severina. Marina is a bright, carefree young woman. But darkness hovers over Roma Nova and Aurelia has to use all her intelligence, wit and experience to fight it.

Shortly afterwards, in RETALIO, resilience, resistance and retribution are Aurelia’s watchwords and she has to call for help on old friends outside Roma Nova as well as act as a leader for those struggling to survive inside.

Until now I’ve skipped other years as her life wasn’t at a special crisis point until the time of each of the stories in those three main books. This reflects our own lives with brief highs in a continuous flow. I would think, though, that Aurelia’s life is more stressful (although more exciting) than our own, even in the more mundane periods.

Readers have asked me what had been happening to various characters after Aurelia’s searing encounter with Caius Tellus in AURELIA, so I thought I’d explore the long gap between that book and INSURRECTIO; NEXUS is the result.

I’ve always wanted to place Aurelia in London at some point and speculate on how much of Roman London would have survived in her timeline. I used to work in the City of London (the financial quarter of London) and in my lunchtime would sit by the remnants of the Roman fortifications with my sandwiches regretting that modern town planning had blasted through the original London Wall with a road and modernist (rather ugly) blocks of flats. Of course, that didn’t happen in the Roma Nova timeline.  🙂

It’s been a real pleasure seeing some of them again: Miklós, her life’s love; tough, sarcastic spymaster Plico; daughter Marina asserting herself a little more; Licinia, the Praetorian captain in Vienna; and David Soane, the Viennese banker cousin. But most of all, we find out why Harry Carter, a powerful minister in the British government in RETALIO, wants to help Aurelia. NEXUS is that story.

So why a shorter book?
I wanted to write a standalone adventure for Aurelia – she deserved it – but not one with the same complexity and depth of disaster for Roma Nova. And we needed a break from the relentless bitter rivalry with Caius Tellus, horribly fascinating though it is.

When I read, I can’t bear ‘padding’ or dragging out for artificial reasons. Stories have a natural length which the wise writer respects, hence my recent set of short stories, ROMA NOVA EXTRA. NEXUS is a more convoluted story – after all, it means connections, ties, obligations – so it deserved a longer text than a short story. It’s emerged (after various rounds of editing and revisions, of course!) at just under 39,000 words which was a perfect length.

Readers have told me they like short, sharp reads as a change. I hope I’ve given them, i.e. you, an entertaining one and also added to the Roma Nova canon. Happy reading!

Interested? Pre-order the eBook now from your preferred retailer.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, will be out on 12 September 2019.

Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Day at the Museum

No, not the reverse of the Ben Stiller movie, but a completely self-indulgent day at the Museum of London which is where I took these photos.

Whenever I view Roman rooms/galleries anywhere, I’m always struck by just how much ‘stuff the Romans left behind.  Moreover, what we’ve unearthed was what people threw away, dropped, left by accident or in a panic, or buried. When you think how much more they made, used or treasured in their daily lives, it could blow your mind. And this was in a pre-industrialised society.

I always wonder at the detail of metalwork, the expertise of pottery decoration, the range, number and variety of pots, glass, arms, taps, mosaics and tools we’ve found so far, and that goods came from and went to every part of the Roman Empire and beyond via complex trade routes.

Early Londinium

 

Londinium was reasonably civilised, however it was more than anything a trading port and an admin centre/military station.

Established first in AD 43, it was strategically placed as a transport hub, the centre of a network of roads leading to every part of the new province.

 

All the Roman civil trappings were there – forum, arena, planned city streets, drains, baths, markets, governor’s palace, basilica, temples, burial grounds, shops – as well as the military forts, barracks and defences.

But it wasn’t always a peaceful development…  In  60 or 61 AD, the Iceni rebellion led by Boudica forced the garrison to abandon the settlement, which was then razed. Following the defeat of Boudica by Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the city was rebuilt as a planned Roman town; first infrastructure and, more slowly, residential buildings.

Two reconstructed rooms, with reconsctrucetd furniture, but objects are from excavations of Roman London

Two reconstructed rooms, with reconstructed furniture at the museum. Objects are from excavations of Roman London

During the later part of the 1st century, Londinium expanded rapidly, becoming Britannia’s largest city. By the turn of the century, Londinium had grown to perhaps as many as 60,000 people, almost certainly replacing Camulodunum (Colchester) as the provincial capital; by the mid-2nd century, Londinium was at its height. Its forum and basilica were among the largest structures north of the Alps when Emperor Hadrian visited Londinium in 122 AD. Excavations have discovered evidence of a major fire that destroyed most of the city shortly after, but the city was again rebuilt. By the second half of the 2nd century, Londinium appears to have shrunk in both size and population.

Trade goods from different parts of the empire and beyond

Although the town remained important for the rest of the Roman period, there was little further expansion. Londinium supported a smaller but stable settlement population as archaeologists have found that much of the city after this date was covered in dark earth—the by-product of urban household waste, manure, ceramic tile, and non-farm debris of settlement occupation, which accumulated relatively undisturbed for centuries.

In 1999, a highly decorated lead coffin was discovered in Spitalfields containing the remains of a wealthy young woman, her clothes and grave goods from the fourth century AD. Recent research has shown that contrary first thoughts, she originated from Rome itself. The mystery of who she was and why she was there in that unstable period remains unsolved… More here

Sometime between 190 and 225 AD, the Romans built a defensive wall around the landward side of the city. Along with Hadrian’s Wall and the road network, this wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain. The London Wall survived for another 1,600 years and broadly defined the perimeter of the old City of London.

London’s fortunes waned as Britannia was subdivided administratively; Eboracum (York ) became more prominent than before. By the late fourth/early fifth century, the Roman Empire was disintegrating. With few troops left in Britain, many Romano-British towns—including Londinium—declined drastically over the next decades. Many of London’s public buildings had fallen into disrepair by this point. Excavations of the port show signs of rapid disuse.

Between 407 and 409 AD, large numbers of barbarians overran Gaul, seriously weakening communication between Rome and Britain. Trade broke down, officials went unpaid and Romano-British troops elected their own leaders. Constantine III declared himself emperor over the west and crossed the Channel to Gaul, an act considered the Roman withdrawal from Britain since the emperor Honorius subsequently directed the Britons to look to their own defence rather than send another garrison force.

Archaeologists have found evidence that a small number of wealthy families continued to maintain a Roman lifestyle until the middle of the 5th century, inhabiting villas in the southeastern corner of the city and importing luxuries. Medieval accounts state that the invasions that established Anglo-Saxon England (the Adventus Saxonum) did not begin in earnest until some time in the 440s and 450s. Bede recorded that the Britons fled to Londinium in terror after their defeat at the Battle of Crecganford (probably Crayford), but nothing further is said. By the end of the 5th century, the city was largely an uninhabited ruin.

Abandoned Londinium in the 5th century

Although a little old fashioned in its displays, the Museum of London is a rewarding place to visit. The models are fascinating and so are the room reconstructions and the detailed history. I was disappointed in the shop which concentrated on London Underground merchandise, but then I found this terrific map:

Worth every penny and the best kind of souvenir!

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, will be out on 12 September 2019.

Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Silent Sunday – Gallo-Roman arena, Gennes, Western France

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, will be out on 12 September 2019.

Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.